So yesterday I went to New York City…..yada yada yada……I met the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld.
I suppose that needs further explanation…..let me start at the beginning. If you know me, even a little bit at all, there are two things that you realize almost immediately: I love the New York Yankees and I love Seinfeld. I’m not a person that necessarily wears her passions on her sleeve – there are plenty of other things that I’m pretty fervent about – but when it comes to these two things, you’ll probably figure out my unbridled enthusiasm pretty quickly. Seinfeld is my favorite TV comedy of all time: Arrested Development comes pretty close, but my love for Seinfeld just runs too deep.
I started watching Seinfeld back when I was in high school and instantly fell in love with it. This posed something of an issue for me when I went away to college, since my freshman year our dorm rooms did not have cable (those were dark times; we had dial up Internet as well). There was one TV in the lounge that did have cable, but it was a battle between 4 floors of students to see who would gain control and dictate what everyone would be forced to watch. If that happened now, we’d all be watching Seinfeld because I would have no problem making sure that happened, but back then I was much shyer and quieter and not nearly aggressive enough to make the group bend to my will. So my wonderful family came up with a solution – they would record episodes of Seinfeld on VHS (I’m old) and then when the tape was full, send if off to me to watch on my roommates VCR. Seinfeld was in syndication by this point and episodes aired daily, so the tapes willed up pretty quickly. The main responsibility for this task fell to my younger brother, who took to it with gusto; not only did he keep track of which episodes I already had, but he also would pause the recording during commercials to allow more episodes to fit on each tape. This is singly the nicest thing that he has ever done for me, and I do not mean that sarcastically. It was really thoughtful, especially since given our age gap and different genders, we weren’t necessarily all that close. Seinfeld brings families together. This meant that I had a seemingly endless collection of Seinfeld episodes at my disposal and those tapes were on a near constant loop in our dorm room; it was a rare occasion to walk in our room and not have Seinfeld running in the background. Mad props to my freshman roomie Jenn, who tolerated this even though I don’t really think she was a huge fan of the show. She probably knows more about Seinfeld than she ever wanted to. These tapes also made me pretty popular with the boy’s floor downstairs, which wasn’t a bad side effect at all. 🙂
By sophomore year, the powers that be got their act together and cable was readily available in all the dorms, so I took over primary responsibility for taping the show. By the time the show ended when I graduated college, I had accumulated every Seinfeld episode ever on a series of VHS tapes that were beginning to show the signs of wear and tear after being almost continually played for several years. Of course, when the series came out on DVD I purchased it, but I had a sentimental attachment to those tapes and only finally got rid of them four years ago when I moved. They were really falling apart by then from complete overuse, but it was still a tough thing to throw them away. Because of them, I’ve seen every episode of Seinfeld probably close to 100 times. I don’t get obsessed over a lot of things, but when I do I fully commit.
So when Hulu announced that they were recreating the iconic set of Jerry’s apartment in NYC to celebrate the website’s deal to stream the series, there was no doubt in my mind that I was making the pilgrimage. I had enjoyed the Friends pop-up a lot last fall and I had a fraction of the attachment to that show that I do to Seinfeld. Since the exhibit was only open for five days, I resolved to be there the day that is opened to make sure that I didn’t miss out. I took the day off, boarded a 6:55 am train to Penn Station, ready to fulfill my destiny.
The pop-up opened at 10 am and I thought it wise to be there as close to the time it opened as possible. There were really long lines for the Friends café and I suspected that the Seinfeld exhibit was going to be even more popular, especially since it was open for a much shorter period of time. Though Jerry’s apartment on the show was on the Upper East Side, the pop up was in Chelsea, which was fine with me since that is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. I got in line about 20 minutes before 10 and was probably one of the first 50-75 people in line, which I felt pretty good about. I had other things that I had hoped to squeeze in for this visit, but if I wound up standing in line all day I was ready to do that too. And then the waiting began. Since I was one of the first 200 people in line, I received a gift card for free Hulu and a box of Junior Mints.
Because the apartment set is relatively small, only a few number of people can be in there at one time to allow visitors the chance to look around and take pictures without it being a complete clusterf*ck. This is great, as you get the chance to really look around and not be jammed in there like sardines, but it also means that the line moves very, very slowly. It was almost 45 minutes before I even made it inside the building – only to discover that there was another line to actually get into the apartment. The rest of the space had memorabilia from the show, but I wisely thought it was a better plan to hop right onto the line to get into the apartment. I could see the rest of the stuff later, but the less time that I had until I was actually inside Jerry’s apartment the better. I patiently got in line and continued to wait.
They only let about five people into the apartment at a time, so I had been waiting for well over an hour before I finally got my turn. Before you enter the apartment the staff ask if you want to make a “Kramer entrance,” which they will videotape for you on your phone. As much as I love Seinfeld, I also love not making a fool out of myself so I opted not to do that. I wasn’t even really sure that I could pull it off without practice and that’s not something that I had trained to do. But it didn’t matter…..it was finally my turn to go in. As I opened the door, I had one thought: “this is real and it’s spectacular.”
It was totally a surreal experience because it really felt like Jerry’s apartment. They did a fantastic job recreating everything and it felt almost totally authentic – the only detail that they got wrong was that Jerry’s computer was a Mac, not a PC (and yes – I noticed immediately). Otherwise, it was all pretty spot on and thought I did my best to hide it I was pretty overwhelmed by the experience.
They were trying to hustle people out of there as quickly as possible, but I wasn’t leaving until I got a photo of myself sitting on the couch. I think the smile on my face says it all…..
As I was leaving the apartment, I was stopped by two people from the Wall Street Journal who were interviewing people about the experience. I didn’t make the final cut of the video – I think I was too dazed by what I had just witnessed to give very good answers – but there was a funny moment when they asked me what my favorite episode was. I said “The Contest” and then they asked me to describe what the episode was about. I had to quickly figure out the best way to say it and came up with “the gang has a contest to see who can go the longest without pleasuring themselves.” The guy interviewing me was impressed with my phrasing. They were also pretty impressed when they asked what part of the city that I was from and I told them that I was from Albany; they actually turned the camera back on to get that answer on tape. I don’t really like to see myself on camera, so I’m totally OK with not making the edit that they posted but it was a cool experience nonetheless.
Now there was time to explore the memorabilia that filled the remainder of the space. It was cool to see so many familiar objects, although there were a couple that I had to really think about what episode they were from. I was particularly impressed with the Festivus pole.
In the corner, there was yet another surprise – the actor that played the Soup Nazi was standing there for you to have your picture taken with. It was kind of out of the way – you couldn’t see him when you first entered the building – so the line wasn’t that long as most people were still waiting to see the apartment. That was an unexpected treat.
And with that, my Seinfeld experience was over. I finally left the building around 11:30 and by the time I went outside the line had grown significantly longer. The line actually never seemed to dissipate throughout the day, so I was very happy with my decision to get there early. It was a really awesome experience that really only could have been improved upon if I got to meet Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander or Michael Richards. An amazing and memorable day.
The Seinfeld pop-up is located at 451 West 14th Street through June 28. It is open daily from 10 am t0 7 pm.